Everyone knows that a huge part of the b-school experience is creating a network that you’ll be tapping into for the rest of your career. But what if you’re naturally shy, or simply hate the idea of networking because it makes you feel phony, opportunistic, or just plain “dirty”?
The majority of international students at U.S. MBA programs come from Asia, where the cultural differences related to networking are stark. Even European students often find it awkward to send introductory emails or chat up strangers at networking events. Career centers in turn worry these cultural differences put international students at a disadvantage during their internship and job searches.
In the May issue of Harvard Business Review, professors Tiziana Casciaro of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, and Marvam Kouchaki of Kellogg School of Management share strategies for making networking not only more bearable, but perhaps even enjoyable for the networking-averse among us.
The quickest way to flip the switch in your negative mindset about networking? Stop making it about you.
For example, at a networking event, take the focus off of yourself and instead focus on the other people at the event. The researchers discovered that when people focus on how they can help others — instead of how others can help them — the act of networking suddenly takes on a different tone.
“When you think more about what you can give to others than what you can get from them,” they write, “networking will seem less self-promotional and more selfless — and therefore more worthy of your time.”
The professors offer other strategies to help recast networking in a more positive light, including how you can make the focus about learning, identify common interests, or assign a higher purpose to the practice. Take a look at the original article on Harvard Business Review and see if their tips alleviate some of the discomfort you’ve been feeling up til now.